Mary Beth Writes

Written 1-30-14 when I was still working at the jail.

Have you seen the sun rise lately?  The sky has been dawning, many of these days, as if someone is pulling rosy pink taffeta ball gowns up out of the long, cold nights.  That shimmering, wild, splendidly intense rose comes up into the world. For a few moments, the snow is pink; the trees are warm with color. I saw a seagull flying that was pink on one side, white on the other.  It is magnificent.

A while later I drive the car out to work; the sky is still gasping with an afterglow of pink ribbons. The lake is now that color of rich, dusky teal blue that makes my toes curl. Of course, that deep blue hue is edged and laced with a zillion shades of glittering snow, bobbling chunks and clumps of glinting ice, and silver gulls.

On the way to work I have to make my first hard decision of the day. Am I going to turn east at Goold so that I can drive right along Lake Michigan several more blocks, before turning back to Main to finish the trip to work?  Or am I just going to stay on Main Street, which saves me turning four corners?

If I turn in, now I have to put up with all the aforesaid gorgeous colors AND the rich camel of the wide, winter-wet beach.  Once I saw a coyote doggedly padding north along the shoreline; I had to stop and watch, it was better than the Uffizi (art museum) in Florence – and I have BEEN to the Uffizi and I have seen da Vinci’s up close and personal. As his reputation says, da Vinci is nothing to sneeze at.  But a lone coyote on a wide winter beach in the early morning? Sloshing teal and frozen tan, shimmering rose and snowy white behind him?  Hoo-boy, I had to pull up my socks back up that morning.

And then I get to work. You’d think I would be safe from beauty inside a jail, right?

Not always. Imagine sitting at a utility table in a beige-painted cement block room. There are four or five inmates, in their orange cotton uniforms, sitting in beige plastic chairs.

You know what happens?

They talk, they listen, we work on stuff… and sometimes the overhead fluorescent lights turn them into Renaissance art. Their faces glow in the amazing tones of all human skin. Their eyes; dark, light, some red-rimmed because they are tired. Their hair is clean or dirty, very minimal hair products. All that is in the room are men or women in their natural, flawed, real, present, humanness. 

I say nothing because it would be way too awkward, but I see it and my heart races. You couldn’t put this on a bucket list, and yet here it is, inside a jail; human beauty in its natural, warm, breathing, animal handsomeness.

So here’s the thing that stymies me ab out myself and about all of us.

There is so much beauty in the world. It’s everywhere.

Where we expect it – dawn.

Where we don’t – jail.

It’s in the white plastic bag swirling and lofting across a city street.

It’s in the sky when a flock of starlings do somersaults for no reason we can comprehend.

It’s in the face of the neighbor who doesn’t know she’s standing in the light of the setting sun.

It’s in the way things fall off the table when the cat pushes them, and now there is jewelry, a pen, two pieces of paper, and your mittens scattered on the wood floor in an arrangement you couldn’t have dreamed.

How do we ever get bored? How do we ever say, “This town is so stupid” or, “My house is dumb” or “That is such an ugly person”?

I dare me and I dare you, this coming cold, tough week, to open your eyes and see what’s beautiful.

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